We’re into March, or at least darn near to the month when winter can be expected to give up the ghost. March is the month that starts in winter and ends full bore into spring. We’ll see game fish seasons close in March (the 4th, next Sunday); we’ll see panfish come on strong; we’ll see snow sports fade and possibly end; and by month’s end, we’ll have open water on the rivers and weak ice on lakes. There is a lot to come in the next 31 days!
For now, winter still hangs on. Cross-country ski trails withstood the thaw weather of the past week, and are in good shape for the weekend. Some new snow this week freshened them up a bit, and good grooming (and local trails have that) will promise good skiing in the days to come. Granted, that can change on a hard thaw or an overnight rain. But for now, it’s good skiing, and we think it will continue into the next weeks.
The same may not be true of snowmobile trails; they’re in “fair” condition going into the weekend. Those trails simply wear out faster than ski trails, and given that large sections pass in open areas versus heavy tree cover, they are far more vulnerable to a clear sky and spring-like temperatures. We’d advise some caution, as some sections are thin, and unless we get more snow, they’ll not get better.
As noted above, ice fishing game fish seasons close on the first Sunday of March, so we’re counting down the days. That is not a huge loss, as with the exception of northern pike, most fishing has slowed as it usually does in late February. If you have a hankering for fresh walleye, don’t wait; the season is fading.
That leaves panfish as the only game in town, and what a game that can be! Late winter fishing for panfish on a clear, sunny day without a chill wind can be superb. For now we’re on the leading edge of that time. Crappies are still mostly deep (there are some exceptions to that), with bluegills shallower. Fish both with jigs tipped with grubs, or use small minnows on jigs or under tip-downs for crappies. It’s not been great fishing, but it will get better.
A caution-one that we’ve mentioned all along, and that is that ice conditions are iffy. South of here they are not good at all, and a hard thaw will force the issue up here. As per usual, don’t assume all ice is safe! It’s not!
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.